Dual-emissive tetraphenylethene (TPE) and pyrene-containing amphiphilic molecules are of great interest because they can be integrated to form stimuli responsive materials with various biological applications. Herein, we report the study of mechanically interlocked molecules (MIMs) with aggregation-induced static excimer emission (AISEE) property through a series of TPE and pyrene-based amphiphilic rotaxanes, where t-butylcalixarene with hydrophobic nature was used as the macrocycle. Evidently, by adorning TPE and pyrene units in rotaxanes P1, P2, P1-b, and P2-b, they display remarkable emission bands in 70% of water fraction (fw) in tetrahydrofuran (THF)/water mixture, which could be attributed to the restricted intramolecular rotation of phenyl groups, whereas prominent blue-shifted excimer emission of pyrene started to appear as fw reached 80% for P1 and 90% for P1-b, P2, and P2-b, which was ascribed to the favorable π-πstacking and hydrophobic interactions of the pyrene rings that enabled their static excimer formation. The well-defined distinct amphiphilic nanostructures of rotaxanes including hollowspheres, mesoporous nanostructures, spheres, and network linkages can be driven smoothly depending on the molecular structures and their aggregated states in THF/water mixture. These fascinating diversiform nanostructures were mainly controlled by the skillful manner of reversible molecular shuttling of t-butylcalixarene macrocycle and also the interplay of multinoncovalent interactions. To further understand the aggregation capabilities of rotaxanes, the human lung fibroblasts (MRC-5) living cell incubated with either P1, P2, P1-b, or P2-b was studied and monitored by confocal laser scanning microscopy. The AISEE property was achieved at an astonishing level by integrating TPE and pyrene to MIM-based reversible molecular switching rotaxanes; furthermore, distinct nanostructures, especially hollowspheres and mesoporous nanostructures, were observed, which are rarely reported in the literature but are highly desirable for future applications.
- aggregation-induced static excimers
- amphiphilic rotaxanes
- distinct nanostructures
- molecular switching